Robert Važan

How to translate English terminology into Slovak

Professional terminology is a special problem when it comes to translations. Automated translators usually struggle with it. Terms commonly used in English often don't have established equivalents in Slovak. How do you then translate texts that use such terms?

Of course, there is always the option of not translating anything and communicating specialized topics in English only. English is, after all, the only global language, and other languages will eventually die out. You will however eventually find yourself in a situation where you need to present a specialized topic in Slovak, because the language used depends more on the audience than the topic.

In Slovak, there are essentially three ways to translate English expressions:

  1. Adopt the English expression as is (internet, screenshot, firewall, branch predictor). Pronunciation usually remains English, although frequently used terms are sometimes Slovakized (wifi, USB, event).
  2. Adopt the pronunciation and Slovakize the spelling (show - šou, screening - skríning, dubbing - dabing, hardware - hardvér).
  3. Find or create a Slovak equivalent (mouse - myš, sources - zdrojáky, debug - ladiť, handle - ošetriť).

Once you have the first translation for given root word, you can add related translations through regular derivation (server - serverovňa, firewall - firewallovať) and inflection (na screenshote, v handleri) according to Slovak grammar. If it's not going easily, the word can remain uninflected (Ruby).

The first option is favored by experts as it facilitates the transition between English and Slovak and reduces ambiguity in words. Language purists prefer the last option, but no one asks for their opinion, so they at least terrorize journalists with the language law :) Experts define the language through active use and the language will therefore reflect their preferences.

It nevertheless often makes sense to choose the second or third option, especially if the word is difficult to inflect (drive), sounds strange in its original form (app - appka), or already has a Slovak equivalent in a different sense (scripting language - skriptovací jazyk). However, the more natively sounding translations are not always more usable or understandable (e.g., dáta vs. údaje). Excessive Slovakization tends to be detrimental and I recommend boldly using purely English terminology.